This post is written by May May Leung, PhD, RD is an assistant professor at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College. Her research expertise includes the development and evaluation of innovative health communication and community-based interventions to prevent childhood obesity.
In a recent essay, Dr. Thomas Frieden (Director of the US Centers for Disease Control), discussed the government’s role in protecting the health and safety of the public. One role he mentions is take population-wide action to more effectively address health problems, such as immunization and seat belt mandates and fortification of food.
As you may well know, food insecurity is another major problem that many in the US are confronted with – an estimated 50.1 million Americans are food insecure. While voluntary-based aid such as soup kitchens and local food charities play a major role by increasing food access for those in greatest need, it is the responsibility of our government to help those in need through systematic benefits obtained through programs like Food Stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Each year, SNAP helps over 45 million people access foods they otherwise would not be able to afford. Forty-seven percent of SNAP recipients are children and over a quarter of recipients are in households with seniors or disabled people. Unfortunately, the program is facing cuts that could amount to $240 to $300 per year for an average family of three. To you and me this may not seem like a lot, but it very well could be a significant loss for families that depend on SNAP to be able to put ‘some’ food on the table. In addition, it’s estimated that the projected benefits cap will result in tens of thousands of jobs lost, thus adding to the cycle of poverty-related hunger.
The Senate passed their version of the new farm bill last week, which proposed a $4.1 billion cut to food stamps over the next ten years. Meanwhile the House version, which proposes a drastic $20 billion cut, is scheduled to be considered later this week. If the House passes their version, a House-Senate conference committee is likely to be appointed to reconcile the significant differences into a single bill. However, the White House has already announced that it is likely to veto the House version because food stamps are “a cornerstone of our nation’s food assistance safety net.”
Let’s hope the cuts that Congress decides to enact will take this comment into strong consideration and limit the negative impact on people already struggling to make ends meet.
written by May May Leung